Cambodia tourism is a testament to the resilience, warmth and pragmatism of the people from the Kingdom of Cambodia, formerly known as Kampuchea. A tragic civil war of Orwellian proportions, and severe disruption and damage from the Vietnam war, left Cambodia as one of the last places that anyone would to visit in South East Asia. However, today, it is possible to visit more places in Cambodia than any other time in its history. Many of the national highways have recently been upgraded with assistance from other countries.
From Phnom Penh, the capital, full paved, and sealed, roads take you to Siem Reap, in northern Cambodia, and the modern day entry town to the Angkor Wat temple and city complex. Similarly paved roads also take you to Sisophon, and Sihanoukville, in the south east, and home of the best beaches in Cambodia, and also to Sisophon, in the north west, and an excellent place to start your journey to of Banteay Chhmar and Banteay Top Angkorian temples.
Any visit to Cambodia as a tourist should include going to the Angor Wat temple complex. In addition to the highway from Phnom Penh, importantly, Siem Reap, airport city code of KH, is well served by airlines arriving at its international airport, airport code of REP. These airlines include arrivals from Singapore (SIN) with Silk Air, airline code of MI, and Singapore Airlines (SQ), Bangkok (BKK) with Bangkok Airways (PG), Ho Chi Minh City (SGN) with Vietnam Airlines (VN), and other international airlines including those arriving from Phnom Penh, Taipei, Guangzhou, Hanoi, and Seoul
The Angkor Wat temple complex is made up of a number of sites, including Angkor Wat itself, and the nearby ancient Khmer capital of Angkor Thom nearby. Other major temple sites include the Little Circuit, taken from the French “Le Petit Circuit”, the Big Circuit, from the French Le Grand Circuit, the Roluos group of temples.
If you do want to visit the other temple sites apart from Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom, it is important to know that the complex is situated more than four hundred square kilometers, and sometimes can be difficult to get to, especially in the rainy season. And just reference, four hundred square kilometers compares to small islands such as Barbados, and even Andorra in Europe.
Interestingly, a recent radar survey, published in 2007, now suggests that the Khmer settlements and the Angkor temple and city sites could have covered more than three thousand square kilometers, which is about the size of Metro Bangkok. The survey also found the sites of seventy four more temples and a far more complex irrigation system not known before.
If you are planning to visit a few of the Angkor sites, you will need to spend a few days at nearby Siem Reap. The town has an excellent range of accommodation, including luxury air-con hotels near the airport, and also, for me, by far and away the best places to stay, many interesting guesthouses, mainly near the Wat Bo road area of Siem Reap. Most guesthouses will arrange for a car you to take you to some cool, inexpensive, eateries around the town. Or just grab a tuk-tuk and enjoy!
What if you want to explore some hidden gems of Cambodia.? Then head back to Phnom Penh, and go to see the natural beauty of Mondulkiri and Ratanakiri provinces. Ratanakiri borders on Laos to the north, and Vietnam in the east, and Mondulkiri province to the south.
You will need to go to a travel agent in Pnom Penh in order to organize a tour to these beautiful provinces located in the north eastern part of Cambodia. There are no national highways or airlines servicing this relatively unknown part of the country.
Just as a heads-up notice to those of you planning to go to this region, and to the owners of Cambodia tourism websites, there are no flights to Ratanakiri airport.
Once you are in Mondulkiri, your local guide will take you to some of the most remote, spectacular, scenery in South East Asia. Jungle, forests, hill tribes, and waterfalls, including the beautiful Boura, all await you here.
And then on to Ratanakiri. This may well be the highlight of your visit to Cambodia, and the area is just outstanding, ranging from, again, waterfalls, to the spectacular volcanic lake of Yak Laom, and seeing the indigenous people of the hill tribes.
Try staying at the Terres Rouges Lodge, situated on the Banlung lake. Banlung is the capital of Ratanakiri province, and is a busting small town of around seventeen thousand people, and where the hill tribe people come to sell their goods.
The original lodge was the home of a former the governor of Ratanakiri province, and has a wealth of history. Today, you will find some of the best services and food in all of Cambodia at Terres Rouge. Just check out the croissants and baguettes that have aroma that you will only find in the cafes of provincial France! Well, maybe there are still a few similar eateries in Pnom Penh!
Sadly, you will have to say au revoir to Ratanakiri and Mondulkiri at some point. I wish you bon voyage back to your home!
And finally, and as usual, a big hello to all my friends at the Thailand Web Zone, which is a new Thai social networking and Thailand community site. Share information in Thai forums and Thailand articles, meet people, share photos, music and video, find & submit information on Thailand travel. Make new friends from all over the world! For those readers who have not visited TWZ, go have a look now!